Without Notice

This time of the year is probably the hardest for me.

I’ve written before about the significance of April 25th. It is the most difficult trauma anniversary for me.

It’s been ten years now, and yet the pain still remains as if it happened yesterday.

It’s a different kind of hurt. A worse kind of hurt.

Of all the things my mother did to me, all the pain she caused, none of it hurt more than what she did (and didn’t do) that day.

I almost died. To this day, I still don’t know why I didn’t. But she knew what happened. She knew I overdosed. And she did nothing. She didn’t take me to the hospital. She didn’t call 911. All she could say was how could you do this to me? And then she went back to her normal daily life, as I sat alone, suffering in the worst way, physically and mentally.

I’ve racked my brain trying to understand what happened that day. I’ve tried for years to understand how anyone, especially a mother, could leave her child to suffer. There is no understanding it. She didn’t care if I died, because that meant the truth would die with me.

It still hurts. It still makes me cry. I still feel the pain in my heart, the hopelessness. A part of me still wishes that I died that day. It would have saved me from seven more years of abuse. It would have saved me from living the same pain over and over again.

I am still grieving. I think I will always grieve that day.

I hadn’t handled it well in the past. But I was going to do better this year.

I told my therapist in the beginning of this month that the end of April was going to be a difficult time for me. I didn’t go into the details right then, but I let him know I was going to need a lot of support. I told him then because I knew as the date got closer, I would isolate and shut down.

Then last week, the night before my therapy appointment, my therapist text me to let me know he would not be returning to the practice. I knew he was planning on taking a within the next couple of months, but this wasn’t a temporary leave. This was a permanent one. Without notice.

I couldn’t believe it. I had already made a mental list of everything I needed to talk about that next day, and here I was, left with no therapist, heading into the most difficult few months of the year. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

I scrambled to find someone, but there was no one I worked with previously that was available. It was difficult to find ANYONE who was available. It was hard enough finding this last therapist. Many places around here have waiting lists, and because I don’t have any money to pay out-of-pocket, I have no choice but to work with therapists who take insurance. And those are the ones with waiting lists miles long.

I thought about the next couple of months. Even once I manage getting through April 25th, I still have Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day has always been difficult for me, for obvious reasons. Last year was probably one of the worst in terms of how I coped with it (because I didn’t cope with it). This year will be even more difficult, because I won’t just be grieving for what my mother did to me, but also grieving for the loss of my own motherhood. Things are more complicated this time around. The loss is more complex.

As much as I would like to say that I can handle things on my own, that I can cope with my losses without being drowned by them, I know that’s not the truth. I can’t do it on my own. I need help. I need support.

Even though my life is shit right now, I have 47 cents in my bank account, I’m failing school this semester, and my health has been horrible, there is a part of me that doesn’t yet want to throw in the towel. That’s why I made the decision to reach back out for help.

I called the PHP I was in a few months ago. I felt ashamed. I had spent so much time in the program that I shouldn’t still be this fucked up. I shouldn’t need this much help. Clearly something is wrong with me. But then I remembered the psychiatrist tell me it’s okay to come back if I need it. And I think I do. I don’t have many other options at this point.

My intake is tomorrow, and I don’t know how to feel.

1,000 Days of Freedom, Part 4: Help

I would not be where I am, 1,000 days into freedom, without help from others in my life.

I’m fortunate to have these people in my life. They have helped me in more ways than I can really even count. Whether it’s listening to me vent, helping me with medical problems, or getting me through tough days, these people have made a huge impact on me getting this far.

I wanted to recognize them, so I got three blue starfish shells. Starfish have multiple arms to help support them. They need them in order to survive. Blue starfish also have their own unique defense system that helps them survive from predators. I found it similar to how my support system helps me defend myself from people and things that hurt me.

On one, I put the names of my parts on each arm of the starfish. I couldn’t fit all of the names of my system on one starfish, so I put them in groups. I recognized K, even in her absence; I know she did a lot for me before I even knew she existed. I acknowledged Charlie and Violet, who have come to the forefront to keep us going, even when it was hard. I thanked my younger parts, many of whom hold trauma for me and for us. Without my parts, I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be functioning as I have.

On another starfish, I put the names of the therapists and doctors who have been there for me as I struggled through PHP and IOP. I spent five days a week with them for ten or so of the last 15 months. They helped me find a stable place to live, and even though we hit a few bumps on the road, we got there. I wouldn’t have been able to do that on my own. They pushed me to make doctor’s appointments and reach out for support when I needed it. The psychiatrist worked with me through all of my medication reactions (and there were quite a few), and never seemed to give up even when I wanted to throw in the towel. The nurse was there for me through all of my medical issues; she was the first person to legitimize that what I was going through was real. She and my therapist helped me through my pregnancy and abortion, without judgment, and helped me see that I was making the right decision. My therapist sat with me and let me cry when I needed to. She told me it was okay to feel. She dealt with me when others would have given up.

I went through some of the most difficult struggles in those months, and they were there for me through it all, and helped me through the darkness when I thought I would be stuck there forever.

On the last starfish, I wrote the names of those involved most closely in my life. My therapists, both new and old. My best friend, who I’ve known for half of my life. Even though we’ve never actually met in person, she has been the voice of reason for me in a lot of situations. She also never fails to make me laugh. My friend who took me in when I was homeless, who has made sure I always have what I need, who has consistently reminded me that I am safe, and who has taught me what it’s like to experience a normal life. My online supports, who not only give me an outlet, but many were also there for me when I escaped, encouraging me not to give up and give in. The people I met through work and therapy, who have since become friends. They’ve been there for me, they’ve made me laugh and cry, and they’ve managed to deal with me quite well, as I know I can be hard to deal with sometimes.

These people are important to me, and will continue to be important to me, even if we don’t see each other. Their words and actions have impacted me in ways that will last a long time. They’ve helped me decipher the lies and discover the truth, and for that I am forever thankful.

(I did not show the names for privacy reasons)

Rock Bottom, Part 2

Being hospitalized brings up such mixed emotions. In a way, it’s a relief; you get a break from life for a while. But then you realize that when you get out, life is going to be the same, if not worse. Missed school, missed exams, late bill payments. Whatever anxiety was reduced quickly comes back tenfold.

As I rode in the back of the ambulance for an hour and a half, my mind kept coming back to two things. The first, why the fuck do these people care about me? I didn’t get it. Why did my friend care enough to take time out of her day to bring me what I needed? Why did she care enough to comfort me when was scared to go? Why did the therapist care enough to wipe my tears away? Why did my therapist care enough to not give up on me? Why did my psychiatrist care enough to save me? Why won’t they just let me be? Why is it so wrong to die? What good am I to these people, to the world?

The second thing stemmed from a conversation I had with the nurse while I was waiting for transport a couple of hours prior. In our conversation, I told her about my writing work with HealthyPlace, my articles on DID. I’m normally very hesitant to share my professional work with anyone on the outside ever since it was used against me. But I trusted her, so I told her about my diagnosis and my writing.

She read through a few of my articles.  Then she stopped and asked if she could ask me a question. I told her it was okay. Then she asked me “why don’t you take your own advice?”

It took me a minute to process. I understood her point. I’ve spent the last two plus years writing about DID, sharing ways to improve communication, work with your system, ask for help. I gave people with DID hope that life could be doable. Yet I had done very little of what I had written. I was giving others hope when I myself was hopeless, telling others to do things I gave up on doing. Why? Because I was different. Because I didn’t think I was worth it. I wasn’t being realistic with myself or with anyone else, and that bothered me.

I held on to both of those thoughts throughout my entire hospital stay. People care. I matter. It probably helped me get through the hospital stay more than anything else did.

I realized early on that the hospital wasn’t the place for me. The first night when the psychiatrist did my intake, she not only made me feel guilty for leaving my brother, but she also didn’t know what DID was. Instead of explaining it, I told her to forget about it. I didn’t have to energy to fight her on anything, or to educate her on things she should have already known. I told her about my heart condition, and my need for sodium-laden fluids. She told me they didn’t do special diets there, and I’d have to deal. At that point, I was done.

The only positive of hospitalization, aside from the friends I made, was being weaned off of my heart medication. The psychiatrist I spoke to the following day agreed that the  medication can have severe side effects in rare instances, and can cause increased suicideality and worsening depression. While I had that before the medication, I certainly didn’t need anything making it more apparent. I appreciated that this psychiatrist listened to me instead of brushing me off as knowing nothing.

I did feel a little bit better once I weaned off of the medication. I was still suicidal, and still very much depressed, but I knew that staying inpatient wasn’t going to help that in any way. I had already been there a week, and it was hell. I wasn’t allowed to leave the floor because I was considered a fall risk. I couldn’t go to outside groups or go to the cafeteria for meals. It was isolating. I called my friend every night. That helped me get through. I knew she couldn’t visit because I was sent somewhere considerably far away; it hurt, but I understood it. I cried the first two nights I was there, but after that, it got easier. I learned of her son’s plan to come in an armored truck and help me break out; I halfway wished that plan was possible.

I was placed as a dual diagnosis patient — which I had to explain several times that I was there for PTSD, not for substance abuse (which, unfortunately, I just discovered they have added DD to my medical record). Most patients there were dual diagnosis — a telling sign of the opioid crisis and its aftereffects. Psychiatric facilities here now have more patients with drug or alcohol abuse than they do general psych. It definitely changes the experience, and the needs of DD patients become priority, at the expense of other patients.

They wanted me to stay longer. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was starting to get stir crazy. One of the patients had become indirectly threatening towards me. It started to feel more unsafe as the days went on. I did everything I was supposed to, so they discharged me, with an appointment the next day for intake at the program I was in before I was hospitalized.

It wasn’t as easy to come back to life as I thought it would be. I felt like a failure. I had to restart program. A program I had been in since August. I saw so many people come and go, and I was still there. And now to be there again, starting all over. Why can’t I just get over everything already? Why can’t I just be cured?

I wish I could say I climbed out of rock bottom, but I’m not sure I have.

Rock Bottom, Part 1

I had managed for months to (very narrowly) avoid hospitalization. Despite the increasing suicideality, the treatment team trusted me enough to not put any of my plans into action. And I hadn’t, for those couple of months. I was honest with them, because as much as part of me wanted to die, there was another part of me that wanted even more to live.

But I wasn’t getting better. I was still an emotional clusterfuck from the abortion. My heart issues were adding to my hopelessness, and my heart medications were adding to my impulsiveness. I had no energy. I was coasting through the days on autopilot because that’s all I had it in me to do. I had no money to pay my bills. I had been living off cash advances from credit cards that were now maxed out. I reached out and asked for help — a last-ditch effort — and was turned down. It wasn’t being turned down that hurt me, but the reasons why, the denial. I should have expected it; I got the same response when I asked for help to get away from my mother. But I was desperate.

I had given up. What use was I to the world? Broke, unstable, unable to work, to contribute to the world. I was a burden. Living in my former boss’s house, eating her food, drinking her water. She had no obligation to me, yet there I was, being a burden, taking away from her family.

I was a burden to my therapist. Four months into an 8-week program and I was still in crisis. As much as she tried, she couldn’t help me. She couldn’t get through. And I couldn’t receive.

I sat in my desk that night, scribbling down on paper what I needed to say. I couldn’t quite get it all out. Everything I wrote down didn’t seem like enough. It needed to be enough. Because it was going to be the last thing I ever said.

I went into program the next day like nothing had happened. But I was withdrawn. My therapist knew something wasn’t right. I shut her down and told her everything was okay, but she still felt something was off. I couldn’t tell her she was right.

I couldn’t keep it inside very long. The next day, after some prodding, I disclosed what I had done. I knew I wasn’t going to promise my way out of it. My hopelessness had gone too far. It was too dangerous now. I was too much of a risk. I had to contract for safety that night, but I knew when I went back the next day, that there wasn’t going to be a contract.

An hour and a half into the day, and I saw my therapist come to the door. I knew it was for me. I knew what was coming.

I sat in the office, my therapist sitting at my side, my psychiatrist sitting across at his desk. I looked down and twiddled my thumbs, trying to avoid eye contact, trying not to see the look of concern on both of their faces. As soon as my psychiatrist uttered the word inpatient, I started to cry. I hated the hospital, just as much as I hated my life.

Maybe we need to consider ECT. Great. Electric shocks to your brain. That’s where my life has ended up. We had tried all the medications. We sat through all the therapy. And we ended up at ECT. A last resort.

My mind was all over the place. I had managed to stop crying long enough to look up and see that my psychiatrist had been crying as well. A man normally seemingly void of emotion. I’ve never cried for a patient before. I knew his feelings were real. I knew his concern was genuine. He wasn’t looking to punish me. He was trying to save me.

As my therapist was making calls and arranging for my medical transport, I waited with the nurse. I begged just to smoke one cigarette. I needed to calm down. I had to promise her I wouldn’t run away; and I didn’t. I had finally stopped crying. I felt okay, or at least as okay as I could be in the moment. I talked with the nurse. I told her about my DID diagnosis, and about some of my trauma history. She asked questions, and I answered honestly. I saw her facial expression change; I saw her sadness. My immediate urge was to apologize to her, yet here she was apologizing to me. You didn’t get to have a childhood. An unfortunate truth. A reality that may not have been had someone just helped me.

I sent a text to my friend to ask her if she could bring me clothes. She packed a bag with everything I needed. My favorite hoodie. My favorite pajamas. The softest t-shirts she could find. I cried when I told her what was going on. I was ashamed. I didn’t want her to be mad at me. I didn’t want to lose my home or my family. I didn’t want her to have to worry about me. I didn’t want anyone to worry.

A few hours later, the ambulance came to transport me. I hugged the therapist goodbye. Through tears, I told her I was sorry. She wiped my tears away, and assured me I had nothing to be sorry for. I hugged her again. She handed me a piece of my favorite chocolate for the road. I hugged my therapist. I saw the emotion in her face — I couldn’t tell if it was sadness or concern — but I was sorry for it. One last hug to the nurse and I was on my way, strapped to a transport bed, just like a sick person.

Art

I haven’t been able to write much. There’s a lot going on, both inside and outside of myself. I’m hoping to write soon.

But as I continue working to get words on my screen that make sense, I thought I’d share some artwork (though I’m not sure it qualifies as art) that I’ve done in my time at PHP.

I’m not an artistic person. Sitting in an art class makes me want to flee. But it’s not an option when you’re in group. You have to do something.

The first time I was in art, the therapist asked us to create something surrounding the words “I am”. While most people went right to drawing images, my mind went to writing words. But every word that was popping into my head was negative. It wasn’t that those words were untrue — they were my reality for a very long time. But they weren’t anymore. I didn’t want to ignore those parts of me. They still made up who I was. But I am more than that now. So for each truth of my past, I wrote the reality of my present. The totality of who I am.

That was one art class down. Only dozens more to go. So I decided to do a collage. At first, I chose to do one because it would take up a lot of time. I could spend several (collective) hours just flipping through magazines, killing time so I wouldn’t have to do anything artsy. And that’s exactly what I did. I flipped through at least a dozen magazines, cutting out whatever stood out to me. Words, phrases, pictures. Before I knew it, I had a whole baggie full of magazine clippings.

As I went through what I had cut out, I realized that every thing I chose had a purpose. Words that described me. Phrases that inspired me. Pictures that I liked. This collage is me. Every piece has a meaning. Each section is a story. Past. Present. Future. It’s me.

I may not have been able to write much these last few months. But these are my words; just in a different form.

Beneath the Fat

Are you sure you aren’t diabetic?

You don’t look like you’re starving.

You shouldn’t be eating that.

Not hungry? I find that hard to believe.

You should lose some weight, then you won’t be so sick.

These are just some of the things that people have said to me over the years — most of them said more than once.

I get the diabetes assumption quite a bit. When I had surgery to repair my Lisfranc, I had a nurse ask me SIX times if I was sure I wasn’t diabetic. Six. Times. I understand asking is standard procedure, but asking six times because you just can’t get over your assumption that my weight must mean I’m diabetic is not standard procedure. That bothered me. 

And then there’s the people who see you eating a cookie and tell you that you should be watching your sugar. Why? I’m not diabetic. Never was. But thank you, because now I feel horrible for eating.

You don’t look like you’re starving. This goes right along with not believing I’m not hungry. I’ve had people I considered friends say this to me when I told them I didn’t really eat much. It’s not funny. It’s frustrating. Starvation isn’t always skin and bones. Starvation doesn’t always have an obvious “look”. Trust me, I’ve experienced it. Sometimes forced upon me, and sometimes self-induced. But no one sees the lanugo growing on my body or the rampant malnutrition running through the blood in my veins. They just see my weight and assume I must sit at home all day and eat.

You shouldn’t be eating that. This comes from so many people, friends and strangers. I once had a coworker scold me for eating a Poptart; it was the first thing I had eaten in days. Needless to say, that was the last thing I ate for a while, because what he said made me feel ashamed for thinking I should eat. 

I’m on a high-sodium, high-protein diet for health reasons, and people have felt the need to comment about me adding salt to my food or eating meat. It’s not good for you! Your blood pressure. Well, actually, it is good for me, because my blood pressure is low. I know, it’s hard to believe. Because all you see is my weight.

I am not in the best of health. There’s no denying that. But when you hear about it, don’t jump to the conclusion that I am suffering because I’m fat. I don’t have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. I didn’t get lung disease from being overweight. My autonomic nervous system didn’t turn to shit because I’m fat. I can’t fix my health with diet, because it’s not fixable.

People look at me and see the fat. They see I’m overweight. They see me struggling. So they make assumptions. Dangerous assumptions. Hurtful assumptions.

They don’t know that I am literally half the size I was just a few years ago. They don’t know I spent time in the hospital because I was severely malnourished from not eating. They weren’t there when I tediously calculated every calorie I took in, making sure I would not go above 500 in one day. They don’t see the concern in my doctor’s eyes whenever I get weighed and have lost too much weight too rapidly.

They don’t know how much I struggle some days just to eat. They don’t see me weigh myself every morning obsessively, trying to determine if I deserve to eat that day. They don’t hear the inner battle I have to go through before I sit down to eat a meal. They’re not there when people who care tell me I need to eat because they know it’s been too long.

They just see the fat.

They don’t see the eating disorder ravaging beneath.

It’s been so easy for me to deny I have a problem, because it’s been so easy for me to hide the truth beneath the surface. Other people’s beliefs became my words. Whenever I’d get feedback or suggestions that I had an eating disorder, I’d just tell them I don’t have an eating disorder; I’m fat. I’m not starving; I’m fat. I’m fine; I’m fat.

I got so angry months ago when the PHP I was in diagnosed me with ED-NOS, atypical anorexia nervosa. I don’t have a problem. I don’t look like I’m starving, so just leave me alone. Why couldn’t they just be like everyone else and only see what I was on the outside? Why did they have to dig deeper? Why did they have to be worried when no one else was?

It took me some time to realize my anger was displaced. As much as I wanted to be angry at the program for giving me the diagnosis, I was really angry at everyone who refused to see my struggle, everyone who made it harder for me to cope with my ED because they couldn’t see past my outward appearance, everyone who purposefully and not-so-purposefully contributed to my guilt about eating.

I’m not your typical person with anorexia. There’s a lot of things about me that just don’t fit the norm. And that’s fine, because nothing in my life has ever been typical. It’s hard for people to understand that. I only understand because I’ve had to.

It’s difficult in general when you struggle with an ED. It’s even more difficult when you add people and ignorance into the mix. All of those comments about my weight and what I should or shouldn’t eat only made it harder for me to recover. They made me believe that I still wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t worthy enough. I’m not enough. Every time I managed to take three steps in the right direction, someone would make a comment and push me back six steps in the wrong direction. It’s a vicious cycle that continues to hinder my healing.

I’m still struggling. I think I may always struggle a bit. There are days when I manage to eat like a “normal” person. But there are still days when I conveniently forget to eat. There’s still days when I self-sabotage. It’s been difficult for me since I got sick. I’m not able to move around like I used to. The medication I have to take causes water retention and weight gain. I think of ways I can counteract it all, ways that really aren’t healthy, ways that will only end up hurting me even more.

It was much easier for me to sit there and self-destruct when I had no one who cared enough to stop it. It’s not so easy now.

And I know that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t make the struggle any easier, and it doesn’t erase the shame. I’m still scared of myself. I’m still afraid of the thoughts that go through my head, the fear of gaining weight that eats me up from the inside. I’ve been taught to attribute my worth as a human being to my weight and my actions, and I’m not sure how to remedy that when it seems to be ingrained in a part of my brain I can’t seem to access.

This was all so much easier when no one saw what I hid beneath the fat.

What no one wants to know

One afternoon last year, I was walking up the street to catch the bus I was taking to get to my grad school classes at night.

As I was walking, a little girl came out of one of the buildings and started walking just a few feet in front of me. She was around six years-old, and was walking alone. I started to panic. I felt sick to my stomach. I was hoping she’d go inside somewhere, but she just kept walking in front of me.

I was scared for her. This girl is in danger. She’s going to get hurt. I wasn’t scared that she was going to get kidnapped or anything like that. I was scared that she was going to be hurt by me.

I am scared to be near children. It’s a crippling fear of mine. I don’t want to hold anyone’s baby. I don’t want to babysit anyone’s toddler. I avoid children at all costs. When I see them, I run away. It’s part of the reason I have not, and never will, have children of my own.

It’s not so much a fear of children (although some are quite scary). It’s the fear that I will hurt them. The fear that I am a predator, an abuser just like my mother was and is. They say the cycle of abuse continues, the abused become the abusers. I think that’s true, because I think that is me.

It’s a topic you won’t find in any support groups. It’s something hush-hush, something to be ashamed of. And I agree. I never told a soul what I had done until I hesitantly brought it up to my therapist last year, after suffering from painful flashbacks of incidents from my childhood, incidents in which I hurt other children.

I didn’t know any better. I was a child, too, a child who believed that all little girls were supposed to be “helped” in the bathroom, a child who thought it was normal to touch parts that shouldn’t be touched. I didn’t know it was wrong. I didn’t know I was hurting other children. I was just doing what I was taught was okay.

I realized the reality of the situation when I started getting flashbacks in my early 20s. At that point, I knew what I had done. I knew I hurt children, in the same ways I was hurt. I was no better than any other abuser.

I hid it from the world for so long, even after I told my therapist. It was the one topic I never discussed with anyone else, the one topic I could never write about on this blog until today. I was still ashamed. I still am ashamed. And I carry that shame and guilt with me every day of my life.

They say the best way to counteract shame is to tell people the wrongs you have done. I realize that this may hurt me further. I realize some will respond with disgust, and even hatred. But I am taking the chance that at least one person will understand. I can’t be the only one out here. I don’t want to be the only one.

Why talk about this now?

I did something last week, something I’ve been afraid to do. I acted against my fear. In DBT, they call it opposite to emotion action. If your fear is unjustified, you don’t run away or avoid, you approach. And that’s what I did.

I was in the mall trying to get to the bus stop. All of a sudden, a group of Daisy girl scouts ambushed me. Usually, I would dash and run away, but I couldn’t do that because I am still using crutches. I froze for a minute, physically and mentally. Then I remembered, approach don’t avoid. You are not your mother. You are not a predator. I came back to reality, and stood there and listened as they sold me two boxes of cookies. The anxiety was still there, stewing inside of me; the panic was, too. But after a few minutes, it was all over. I got my cookies. I talked to children. And I didn’t hurt them.

I faced one of my biggest fears head on, doing something I had avoided for so long. The fear was still there; I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. But here was evidence that I could be near a child without hurting her.

I shared my experience in program the next day (without sharing the details of what caused the fear in the first place). I’m not sure anyone quite understood the gravity of my fear, because they don’t know my story much at all. But they didn’t judge me.

And neither did my therapist at program. We talked about it more in individual session the following day. It was uncomfortable for me at first, because I was afraid she would ask me the question I had been avoiding every time someones asked have you ever hurt someone? 

My therapist asked if my fear of children was justified or unjustified, and I told her I wasn’t sure. I really wasn’t. In a way it is justified, I thought. I have hurt children in the past. But not in the present. Not as a conscious adult. Not as a perpetrator. So then it’s unjustified. She asked my reasons for the fear being justified. I felt the shame rising up again. I told her I hurt a child, but I didn’t know, I didn’t know, I was just a child. I was afraid of her reaction. This was a woman who knew me all of two months, and yet she knew so much about it already — and now this.

She asked if I ever had urges to hurt a child. I never have. I can’t even imagine myself knowingly hurting a child. It’s not like that at all. But there is a fear of an urge. A fear that if I am left with children, an urge will come and I will hurt them. Like it’s something that has been ingrained in me. Like it’s something I inherited from my mother.

It’s fear that is both justified and unjustified. There are no easy answers. There is no easy explanation. The only thing I know is that I’ve hurt someone, but I am not my mother.

When you approach your fears, over time, they gradually lose their strength and you are able to overcome them. But this is not one of those fears. My therapist said it might get better over time, but I also may always be afraid of being near children; that fear may never go away. That’s understandable, and that’s okay. But it hurt me when she said that. Even though I know she’s right, I realized it’s just another part of life I have lost because of my past.

While children bring most people joy, they will bring me fear. And I may never be able to change that. Just like I can’t change what I have done, who I have hurt, or those who have hurt me.

I am sorry. Every minute of every hour of every day, I am sorry.

Saved

I passed out last Saturday.

I was in the shower about to condition my hair when I noticed my vision getting blurry. I couldn’t even make out the bottles. I felt weird, and very off-balance. It was similar to how I felt two years before, when I ended up passing out in the hospital. I had just enough reaction time to open the shower curtain and lean on the toilet so I didn’t fall down.

It scared me. I hadn’t passed out like that in two years. And I was alone with the door locked. What would have happened if I fell and got injured? No one could have helped me. It could have been a lot worse than it was.

Since then, I’ve been taking breaks every morning when I shower. I’ll stand for a few minutes, then step out and sit for a few minutes before getting back in. I thought I could just deal with it. But I still didn’t feel right. I was still feeling light-headed, even at random times throughout the day.

We are supposed to report any side effects or events like that to the nurse at the program. But I hesitated for a few days, because I was afraid it would mean I had to stop taking the medication I was taking for the PTSD (it is primarily a blood pressure medication). I finally decided on Wednesday to tell the nurse what had happened. I hadn’t been feeling well that morning and I was scared again.

I told her exactly what I remembered. She asked a few questions and had me sit down to take my blood pressure. Then I saw the confusion and concern on her face. Something’s not right here. My blood pressure was reading exceptionally high — the exact opposite of what she was expecting, since my symptoms all pointed towards low blood pressure. She took it again and ended up with the same result.

At this point, I think we were both a little concerned. Something made her check my other arm. This is so bizarre. I asked her what was wrong. My blood pressure was reading very low. Two different arms with two drastically different blood pressures. She had never seen it before. She wrote down the results, asked me a few more questions about different symptoms and went to consult with the psychiatrist.

When I checked back in with the nurse, she told me the doctor said to stop taking the Cardura right away and see a cardiologist ASAP. This wasn’t normal at all.

I was scared and a bit of an emotional mess. I couldn’t focus on much of anything at that point. I just wanted to pretend like this never happened. Let’s just go on like we never found this out. But I knew I couldn’t do that, and the nurse didn’t want me to do that, either. So I called the cardiologist, explained the situation, and got an appointment for the next day.

Even though part of me wanted to flee that appointment, I went. I also knew I needed to go because the people at program were concerned about me, and insisted that this was important.

They were right. It was important, and my issues weren’t normal. I need further tests, but the cardiologist thinks it is an arterial stenosis, or blockage in one of the arteries on my left side. I need to have a CAT scan and ultrasound to confirm exactly where the blockage is before we can do anything further. The cardiologist also wants me to see a neurologist to rule out seizures, because he says my pass out events are not typical of heart-related fainting.

And now I have to sit and wait. Wait for insurance to approve the tests. Wait for a diagnosis. Wait for more answers.

I don’t want to wait. I don’t even want to deal with this right now. I just…I don’t even know what is happening to me. I am falling apart in more ways than one. And I don’t understand why all of this is happening. What did I do wrong?

My emotions are in all the wrong places. I have been crying off and on and I’m not even sure why. I eat, I cry. I sit down, I cry. I go pee, I cry. I’m a mess.

I was angry at myself for causing this. Maybe if I had just gone to the doctor all these years like a normal person. Maybe if I didn’t smoke. Maybe if I just took better care of myself, I wouldn’t be in this moment right now, dealing with a serious medical issue.

I was angry at the nurse for finding something off and sending me to the cardiologist. If she didn’t check my other arm, this would have never happened. Like it was her fault for all of this. I know it wasn’t her fault at all. And I felt incredibly ashamed for feeling anger towards her in the first place.

The nurse checked my blood pressure today. Part of me hoped that other day was just one big mistake, that the machine was just acting up. But it wasn’t, and once again, there was a drastic difference between each side. I wanted to cry. The nurse was trying to be encouraging, just as she has been these past two months as I’ve continued to struggle with my declining health.

I told her about my feelings towards her, and the misdirected anger. I felt the need to apologize for my feelings that she would have never even known about if I hadn’t told her. She didn’t take it personally. She said a few things, and then she ended with and I may have saved your life.

And she’s right. But I still struggle with whether or not my life is even worth saving anymore.

 

I am

I went to a session today on self-compassion.

It was actually my idea. It was supposed to be an orientation group for new people, but no one was going and the other groups were getting full. So the lead therapist asked what group topic people wanted to cover instead, and for some reason, I blurted out self-compassion.

I say “for some reason” because I’ve been avoiding self-compassion groups when they’ve been offered. I hate self-compassion. I understand it on an intellectual level, but in practice it feels like one of the hardest things in the world, something I’d rather not (and don’t) bother with.

I don’t know why I said it. Perhaps it was the pain medication kicking in. Perhaps it’s because I wanted to learn how to be compassionate towards myself as I’m learning once again how to navigate the world on crutches. Or maybe another part of me knew it was needed. Regardless of the reason, I said it, and everyone was in agreement.

It was a good group. We each picked out a random card from some kind of motivational collection and shared it with the group. I happened to pick the card with the quote:

“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

Well, shit. Isn’t that applicable to me in so many ways? I spend my days making people smile and laugh. I devote part of my life to supporting others with DID, as well as those who have survived female-perpetrated abuse. I bring the sunshine to others how ever I can; I think I always have. Yet I live in darkness. I give all I can to everyone else, but I keep the support, the goodness, the sunshine from myself. I never really thought about much before until then. Where is my sunshine? Where is my light? It has to be somewhere.
Then there was a writing activity. I usually enjoy writing, but I had a feeling writing about something connected to self-compassion was going to be too much for me. I hesitated, even huffed and puffed once I heard we were writing something (which was ironic, considering I had suggested weeks before to have more writing activities in groups).
We were directed to write an “I am” poem. I had never written one before. It is meant to follow a specific structure, but the therapist said we didn’t have to follow it exactly. The paper had 18 lines, each beginning with I (something) followed by blank space to fill in. I thought the suggested structure was a bit much, so I strayed away from following the guidelines and went with how I felt, still keeping the first two words, but continuing with my own inclinations.
We sat in silence writing out our own poems. Once everyone was finished, we had the option to share. A few people shared theirs, and I sat there looking over my poem, judging what I had written. My writing was dark. Maybe too dark. Did I do this right? I hesitated sharing, as I had done weeks before. But I took a breath and started to  read.
I read the first line out loud and everyone laughed. I thought to myself laugh now, because it gets bad quickly. I waited for the laughter to settle down and I continued to read. I shook a bit, but I didn’t stop. I made it through to the end, looked up and across the room to see one of the women crying. I wanted to apologize, but I caught myself first. I didn’t need to be sorry for someone else’s emotional reaction. I learned that here.
I covered my face with the paper to hide my own tears. I pushed the emotions back down. I wanted to speak but my words were stuck somewhere in the abyss of my mind. All I could get out was “I’m good, I’m okay.” I was spent. Emotionally, physically, and psychologically. It’s very easy for me to write, but not nearly as easy to speak my words out loud. It’s still new to me, still hard to do. But I did it.
I am moderately intelligent and mildly conscious.
I wonder what it’s like to not live in fear.
I hear my mother’s voice inside my head.
I see darkness wherever I go.
I want to know how to experience joy.
I am afraid of life.
I pretend to be happier than I really am.
I feel anxious all the time.
I touch my pen to write my thoughts on paper.
I worry about what the future will bring.
I cry when no one sees.
I am unsure of the world around me.
I understand that I cannot be perfect.
I say that I’m okay when I’m really not.
I dream of a different life of freedom.
I try to be better than what she wanted me to be.
I hope I can change the world some day.
I am trying to be me.

Strength

I am strong.

My strength has gotten me through life, and allowed me to continue beating impossible odds.

My strength allowed me to get through my childhood, broken but still alive.

My strength got me to get out of bed every morning, even when I knew the day would inevitably bring me  pain.

My strength carried me through to the day I finally escaped — the day that I needed all of the strength in the world to bring me to freedom.

Strength helped me walk away, run away, far away.

And my strength helps me still today, as I continue to choose to live rather than to die.

I’m not sure where my strength came from. Is it something inside me? Is it in my heart or in my head? Or does it flow through my body like a life force within me? I don’t know where it came from, or even where it is right now. But I know it’s there, helping me fight, helping me stand up when it is so much easier to just lay down and concede.

I share this strength with others every day. I share my story with the world; the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. Because my strength isn’t always so easy to see. But they can see it, sometimes more than I can see it myself. When I feel weak, I am reminded of the strength it took for me to get away. Incredible strength, that not everyone has, but I have it. I always had it. And now my strength gives others hope that they can be strong, too — that they can survive even when it seems impossible.

I used to hate the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” because I believed my experiences showed weakness, not strength. I was standing, breathing, bleeding, but I was dead inside. That wasn’t strength. Strong people don’t feel the way I felt for so long. Strong people don’t feel at all.

But I was strong. My experiences may have knocked me down, but they did not kill me. They made me come back to life stronger than ever, with a will to live and the ability to share that will with the world, to change lives for the better.

My strength gives me hope, even when everything seems hopeless.

Strength is not about winning the battle. It’s about fighting, even when the odds are against you.

I wrote this in group today. I’m not even sure where it came from. I stared at the paper for a while before I even started to write, completely at a loss for words.

What specific attribute, quality, or skill distinguishes you from everyone else? How did you come to develop it? What positive things has it brought to your life? How are you able to share it with others?

What distinguishes me? Nothing. My thoughts automatically went to thinking that I was less than human. Unworthy. How could an unworthy person have anything special about them?

After 10 minutes or so, I started to think of things other people told me about me. I recalled many people speaking of my strength. Oddly, in those moments, I never saw myself as strong. I’d nod my head in agreement, yet inside my head, I was discrediting everything they were saying. I struggle with accepting positive things because I became so accustomed to hearing the negative that positive seems like a foreign concept to me.

I wrote down I am strong. Then it was like something clicked in me. I kept on writing without even thinking of what was coming out on paper. And I ended up with this.

Even after it was done, part of me wanted to rip it up. It doesn’t make any sense. No one will understand this. It’s horrible. I hesitated sharing it with the group because I believed the same thoughts I was having in my head were thoughts that they were going to have as well. Part of me was ashamed.

But I tried to stop the judgments. I took a breath and read it out loud. Even as my voice trembled and my legs and hands shook from anxiety, I read it through until the end. There was something different about reading the words out loud. I wanted to cry, but I held it in. This was my truth, spoken out loud. I made myself vulnerable. I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to share.

But I did, and that alone is an example of strength.